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Developing a local and global #professionalnetwork using #Mahara and LinkedIn.

For many students our local Mahara ePortfolio platform provides the beginning for many students of their professional network. When introducing students to Mahara I also like to find out about their use of other professional and social platforms. The reason is that while local networks are important, to the point where research suggests that support from friend(s) is linked to higher retention rates (Prichard, Wilson, 2003), it's also important to begin making public/global connections and developing a professional identity at this level. Last week I asked a class of students how many of them had a LinkedIn account, of the 30 students none had a LinkedIn account, though some did have a blog and more had a Facebook account. When asked why people don't have one, the answer was that they don't think they have anything useful to add to a profile. While Mahara provides an excellent platform for a local networking and university related activities such as communicating projects, societies, assessment, etc, it doesn't provide a the global network our students could be part of for purposes of expanding their horizons, being global citizens, making industry connections, etc. LinkedIn is important because it provides access to a global professional network.

As for what students could possibly have to offer a profile on LinkedIn for those who don't have any work experience, perhaps the answer lies in what employers find valuable in their potential employees. I was once told that "connections make meaning", by Kathleen Blake Yancey at an ePortfolio conference in Australia, 2011. Kathleen, in her presentation, presented a concept map with headings covering study, work and other experiences that was designed to help students understand more about themselves, and help their unit and course conveners better understand their students to provide more tailored advice. The map looked something like this:

Consider these, and draw links between them.
Course Major Societies
Course Minor Job(s) Volunteer Work
Extracurricular Study Extracurricula Projects

First list your majors, minors, societies etc. Then draw links between these lists labelling them with what they have in common, these linkages will help you draw conclusions, such as your strengths, the topics or types of work you tend to undertake, etc.

Although any given student may lack extensive work experience, we can see on the concept map that work experience is only a part of the person. In fact they have a large part of the overall picture that they can contribute towards building their local and global professional identities. Take for example Extracurricular Projects, lets imagine a student has worked for years with their parent(s) to rebuild a classic car for scratch, or developed a mobile phone app with friends and successfully marketed that app. These examples encompass many skills and attributes that potential employers, teachers, parents, etc would be very interested in and tell the audience potentially more about that person than a degree does. As I said to a class the last week, there are many recruitment agents on LinkedIn and they may be interested in offering you a position even before you finish your degree based on the skills and attributes demonstrated and developed through these other activities.

In parallel, Mahara becomes a local place where peers and mentors can connect with each other, collaborate, produce ePortfolios for various purposes, where teachers can learn more about their students and assess their work, and the two platforms can cross reference each other. To see how this might work, have a look at my own global professional LinkedIn profile, and click on the Resume/CV link to go through to my local professional Mahara presence:
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/shane-nuessler/7/717/9a6 There is a link back to the LinkedIn profile.

Although this post talks specifically about Mahara and LinkedIn as a local and global network opportunity respectively, there are a number of additional/alternative platforms that could form part of this online presence network e.g. Flickr, Prezi, Youtube, Mindmeister, etc. Used purposefully they can help you create a valuable and informative insight into your professional identity for others to explore.

References

E. Pritchard, M., & S. Wilson, G. (2003). Using Emotional and Social Factors to Predict Student Success. Journal of College Student Development, 44(1), 18-28. Retrieved August 18, 2014, from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/csd/summary/v044/44.1pritchard.html



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